United were often under severe pressure and owe their success to some excellent goalkeeping by Mark Bosnich which ensured that a single goal - by Roy Keane in the 35th minute - was enough to earn victory.
On a cold Tokyo evening, United proved once again their ability to win the big games. "We're very pleased to win the World Championship and we're very proud to be the first English team to do so. It's something special," said, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager.
Ferguson was full of praise for Bosnich's display but added that it was no more than he expected. "This shows the ability we always knew he had," said the United manager. "But I think this may solidify his reputation as a keeper. Sometimes you need one noteworthy performance."
Fielding an unusual five-man midfield, United started slowly and the first half saw Palmeiras gradually gain the upper hand. Faustino Asprilla's running and some incisive Palmeiras passing often troubled the United defence.
The first real chance fell to Palmeiras' young hopeful Alex in the 20th minute. A well-worked move put him through on Bosnich but the Australian goalkeeper made his first of a series of critical saves.
Palmeiras's domination was rudely broken by United's goal. Denis Irwin, counter-attacking quickly, pumped the ball along the line for Ryan Giggs, who outpaced the Palmeiras centre- half, Junior Baiano, before crossing. The ball sailed beyond the reach of the goalkeeper Marcos and Keane, at the back post, scored from six yards.
United sought to build on the lead, but it was Palmeiras who continued to threaten most danger, with Mickael Silvestre clearing Alex's header off the United goalline.
United replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with Dwight Yorke for the second half as the game became a much more open contest. Giggs had a chance to stretch United's lead in the 58th minute but shot wide of an open goal.
The balance of play began to flow away from Palmeiras, but they continued to create scoring opportunities after their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, reinvigorated his attack by bringing on Evair and Oseas in place of Galeano and Asprilla. Both created problems for United, Evair working well with Junior on the left and Oseas going close in the 74th minute, only Bosnich's reflexes saving United. Minutes later Bosnich again denied Palmeiras an equaliser, tipping a shot by Alex from the edge of the penalty area over the crossbar.
"My players' technique and set-plays were good," said the Palmeiras coach, Scolari, who was also a loser with Gremio four years ago against Ajax. "They brought the ball to the goal but didn't put it in. It was Bosnich's day, not our strikers'. He made some great saves."
Sir Alex admitted that Palmeiras outplayed United in the first half while Scolari admired United's consistency. "It was a very good and open game," said the United manager. "Palmeiras played very well. At times we rode our luck."
Giggs, who was awarded man of the match by the Japanese journalists for his teasing runs and won a new Toyota car, was keen to share the credit, citing United's strong "spine". Of the cross that beat the Palmeiras goalkeeper, Marcos, to set up Keane's goal, he said: "We noticed the balls were really flying in training and that's something we tried to work on. Maybe that had something to do with beating the keeper."
As an event, the game may serve as a foretaste of the 2002 World Cup. The Japanese organisers excited the capacity crowd with a laser and fireworks show and pumped out music by Beethoven and Queen to set the mood. Travelling and resident Brazilian fans were in stronger voice than the Japanese pro- Manchester majority for much of the game.
However, one possible worry was crowd control. The youthful-looking security staff seemed at a loss when a shouting match between a small number of Brazilian and British fans threatened to escalate. The trouble was limited, but the staff were slow to deal with the threat.
For all the questions about whether the Toyota Cup is the real world championship or whether it will be replaced by the forthcoming Club World Championship, no team that has won it expresses any doubt about its worth. And Manchester United are not exceptions.
Manchester United: Bosnich, Irwin, Stam, G Neville, Silvestre, Keane, Scholes (Sheringham, 75), Butt, Beckham, Solskjaer (Yorke, h-t), Giggs. Substitutes not used: Taibi (gk), P Neville, Wallwork, Higginbottom, Fortune.
Palmeiras: Marcos, Junior Baiano, Arce, J Junior, Roque Junior, Zinho, Sampaio, Galeano (Evair, 54), Alex, Asprilla (Oseas, 56), Paulo Nunes (Euller, 77). Substitutes not used: Sergio, Conceicao, Regis, T dos Santos.
Referee: H Krug (Germany).